Murrysville teen pens play emphasizing importance of arts and humanities
Ariel Rockman, 18, of Murrysville thinks people should place more value on the arts and humanities.
It led her to pen her first play, “The Intervention,” staged in late April as part of the Shady Side Academy Senior School’s Original Works Theatre Festival.
The play tells the story of Harry, a young man who wants to become a poet, but whose parents would like him to pursue a more-practical career.
Rockman wrote the play as the final exam in her play-writing class, and spoke recently with the Star about seeing her words come to life onstage.
Q: What initially gave you the idea for “The Intervention”?
A: The idea that as a society, we undervalue the humanities, has been with me for a while. This summer, I toured a lot of colleges with my parents, and everyone we met said that they were going into a STEM field. Now, the sciences are really important, but so are the humanities, and I wanted to show that as a society we can do better to encourage people to pursue the humanities, and that we oftentimes label them as “impractical” when really they are essential for societal progress.
Q: Does any of the play’s exploration of society’s view of arts and humanities come from your own experience, and if so, what was that experience?
A: Even within my community, there is a sense that the humanities are impractical, and not as important to society. I also wanted to touch upon how hard we make it to pursue a career in the arts. In a lot of schools, arts funding is the first thing to go. If we want the arts and humanities in our society — and I would argue that we do need them — we need to support students who want to go into those fields.
Q: Do you think Harry should have agreed to something “practical” and why or why not?
A: On a “practical” level it was the only thing Harry could do. After threats of becoming homeless and cut off from his family, it would take a person of unusual conviction to pursue his passion. Harry is not that person, nor should we expect that everyone who goes into these fields should make some sort of huge sacrifice. Rather, going into the humanities needs to be presented as a more viable option because they are important, and people, like Harry, can excel at them and create a good life and career for themselves.
Q: What do you hope people will take away from seeing a performance of “The Intervention”?
A: I want people to come away with a sense that we can do better to support the arts and humanities. As I said before, in a lot of schools, funding for the arts is the first thing to get cut, and there is a general sense that the arts and humanities don’t really matter. The effects of this can be seen in higher education; the proportion of students studying subjects like English is declining. “The Intervention” was written to celebrate the importance of these fields, while also commenting to the audience how little they’re valued.
Q: What was the biggest challenge in writing this play?
A: I had never written a satire before, so adding the over-the-top comedic element to my play was challenging. I wanted to make a commentary on what I saw happening around me in society, but I also wanted to entertain the audience and make them laugh, so it was difficult to find that balance.
Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via Twitter .